So what're we getting into? Well, as reported here before, Zombie UHW put out a presser demanding that elections go forward in a select few locations where they themselves, in their own words, "filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the NLRB that blocked the elections, citing employer abuses and NUHW misconduct that seriously jeopardized workers' rights."
Understandably, NUHW's position was to tell SEIU to go pound sand, that the NLRB should open up ALL the contested locations to election, not just those that Zombie UHW wanted open.
Not surprisingly, Zombie UHW put out a presser, professing shock and surprise, and stating that NUHW was now "attempting to stop union elections for more than 4000 workers." I was concerned that Zombie UHW was trying to set up a rhetorical trap for NUHW, in that the side that has been most clamoring for elections would now be put in the awkward position of asking that selective elections be withheld until all blocking charges be either fully adjudiciated or dismissed. As it turns out, I was correct to have that fear...
In a stunning turnaround, the ousted leaders of the Service Employees International Union - United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) now say they want to stop union elections for more than 4,000 workers because giving the workers a democratic vote would be "unfair."Fortunately, the folks at NUHW are (not surprisingly) a move or two ahead of both me and Andy's Zombie Army, and was ready to hit back with their own presser - and was prepared once again to back up their reasons with facts, rather than just boilerplated palaver...
In a letter to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), a group started by the ousted leaders, is insisting that elections be halted at 29 hospitals and nursing homes unless the board capitulates to their demands for elections at other facilities.
"They are hypocrites. Last week NUHW officials were complaining that elections were not scheduled, and this week they are complaining because elections are going to be scheduled," said Romel Gorospe, an Emergency Room Technician at Sutter Solano Medical Center. "They have been trying to ruin things in my hospital for almost a year, and we're ready to vote them out."
"They obviously know that if these elections are held they will lose," said David Esparza, a dietary aide at Windsor Gardens of Salinas.. "If they don't want to go forward with elections they should withdraw their election petitions and leave us alone once and for all."
After a year of stalling union elections for more than 100,000 of their own members to quit SEIU, SEIU officials have cast themselves as champions of democracy in a cynical move to manipulate the election schedule in their favor. Since last February, SEIU has blocked or delayed elections at more than 360 healthcare facilities in California where caregivers are organizing to join the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).Gee, whiz - only requesting two out of four DOCHS hospitals to go forward, even though all four vote collectively. Only wanting one out of six Sutter Health hospitals to go forward with an election - while the other five are made to wait. Yep, that's SEIU-style democracy for ya.
"In election after election, healthcare workers have chosen NUHW," said Kathleen Volle, a respiratory therapist at St. Louise Regional Hospital in Santa Clara County. "SEIU knows their days are numbered and they're trying to grab anything they can on their way out."
SEIU's latest move comes just a week after 70 percent of nurses at Kaiser Permanente's flagship Los Angeles hospital pledged their votes to NUHW in a government-supervised election—and just one month since workers at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital chose NUHW 283-to-13 in what the Los Angeles Times called "a crushing defeat for the SEIU."
For almost a year, SEIU has filed frivolous charges with the labor board to try to deny workers a choice. In June, SEIU President Andy Stern told the Los Angeles Times that his organization had a "legal responsibility" to try to stop these elections.1 But yesterday, SEIU asked the board to withdraw SEIU's charges at a small number of facilities where SEIU believes it has a chance of winning, so that those elections would be scheduled first, before more SEIU members vote to join NUHW.
At the same time, SEIU is struggling to explain to the labor board why the exact same charges they're trying to withdraw should continue to block elections for the majority of workers who want to join NUHW.
"SEIU has made the same ridiculous charges everywhere to avoid a fair election," said Ami Fanaika, an licensed vocational nurse at Seton Medical Center in Daly City, where SEIU is still trying to deny workers a choice. "Now they want to pick and choose who gets to vote. SEIU should stop trying to divide healthcare workers and get out of our way."
In a letter to the NLRB2, NUHW attorney Jonathan Siegel explained that out of the 51 petitions that workers filed to join NUHW on February 2 of 2009, SEIU has filed a request to selectively proceed with only 12 of those elections "with no rhyme or reason except their obvious strategic belief that these are favorable playing fields."
At the Daughters of Charity Health System, SEIU has requested to proceed with elections at only two of the four facilities in the system, even though workers at all four facilities bargain together. Within the Sutter Health system, SEIU has requested to proceed at only one out of six facilities where workers have sought to join NUHW.
I would encourage the reader to read the entirety of the Siegel letter to the Labor Board, but there is one passage that stands out, toward the end of the letter, which must be highlighted...
The position of the NUHW in these matters is simple:(points of emphasis by me)
a. We believe that all petitions should be unblocked, and the parties should sit down together with the Regional Directors of the respective Regions and work out a reasonable schedule for the holding of all blocked elections. Sufficient time has passed since the alleged ULP's for any possible "taint" to be dissipated; or
b. In the alternative, and the much less preferred one, we believe that the Regional Directors should reject the requests to proceed on such an obviously manipulative and selective basis. The NLRB Case Handling Manual, Part 2, Representation Proceedings § 11731.1(c)). If the generalized conduct alleged really necessitates blocking elections, it is the same for all filed facilities. Or, alternatively, as we believe, the conduct does not justify blocking any elections. There is no rational midground.
Indeed, the NUHW believes that the long passage of time since these petitions were filed has given an unfair and undue advantage to the incumbent already. The calendar has been manipulated in favor of incumbency in a gross way. Proceeding on only those elections which the intervenor chooses, without any factual, legal or logical rationale other than the intervenor's desire to determine the process only prejudices us further. This is an obvious and naked strategic gambit based on their apparent internal assessment as to where they have some chance of succeeding. That is not a legal basis for a Regional Director to accept a request to proceed.
Thus, again, we believe you should either unblock all the elections or not accept the request to proceed on this basis. Alternatively, we would support the issuance of an Order to Show Cause to all parties to further brief and address these issues before moving forward further on the requests to proceed.
Note how the NUHW lawyer is repeatedly asking that ALL elections should be unblocked. Not some, not just the ones in NorCal hospitals, not just Kaiser facilities, but ALL petitions should come down. SEIU believes otherwise. Based on the above, the question of which side believes more in democracy is left to the reader.
Now, nobody reading this should expect anything other than rank cynicism when it comes to SEIU and its former outspoken local but now loyal dogsbody in Zombie UHW. The NUHW position is attempting to place sunshine (the world's best disinfectant) on ALL of the blocking charges, not just those that SEIU can pick-and-choose as their best option for a desperately needed victory over NUHW.